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ELECTIONS 2020 Marianne Williamson talks LGBT rights, presidential bid
by Matt Simonette

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Marianne Williamson—an author and activist who's been running to secure the democratic nomination for president in 2020, said that she doesn't see herself as particularly competing against anyone to secure a bid for the highest office in the land.

"The Democrats on policy? None of us are that different," remarked Williamson during a recent visit to Chicago. "We know what we stand for, and that all our perspectives are very different from the president's. … I think of myself as running with a lot of really good people. It's good because they're all virtuosos. I think every time someone speaks, the others think, 'Oh that's a good idea.' It's a good thing."

Williamson is the author of 13 books and has been engaged in a number of realms, among them community activism and spirituality. The 2020 race is an admittedly uphill battle for her, given the financial and logistical requirements to mount a political campaign, especially for someone not intrenched in their party. The crowded field of potential Democratic nominees looking to unseat President Donald Trump doesn't help either. Williamson's showing far down in the polls meant she has not been able to qualify for several of the debate forums.

But she was inspired to run by a significant evolution in life in the United States, she said.

"We're living in a time—and this is true not just for the country, but for the world—that the forces of exclusion are meeting the forces of inclusion, in a contest that's as great as anything we've ever had," Williamson explained. "That's really the existential crisis that this country is going through. We were founded on the notion that everyone is equal, and that there should be equal justice and opportunity for everyone. We have never fully manifested that. … There are so many ways that the white European, WASP, straight male, Christian-dominated identity is being blown apart."

She said that she is among those to whom such a shift seems exciting, adding, "To many of us, we think of what's possible in terms of the flowering and the actualization of humanity, and we look at that and think of America, and American democracy as being a container for that, and are thrilled."

Williamson has an extensive LGBT platform on her website; her communications representative noted that Williamson, who is by trade an author, wrote the platforms herself.

Components of that platform include supporting the Equality Act; reversing laws that allow for discriminatory public accommodations practices; including LGBT persons in the census; appointing an attorney general who prioritizes addressing hate crimes; reversing the military's transgender ban; and backing Title IX protections for LGBT students, among others.

LGBT persons, the platform concludes, "should be able to pursue a livelihood free from discrimination and have all of the rights afforded under the U.S. Constitution—not because of their sexual orientation—but because they are American citizens."

Williamson was especially active during the '80s and '90s AIDS crisis. She was a co-founder of the Center for Living in Los Angeles, which welcomed persons with HIV/AIDS, as well as Project Angel Food, which operated under its auspices. She faced criticism this past summer, however, when commentators suggested Williamson had said, among other things, that medical suffering was a self-imposed retribution for one's poor emotional state, and that individuals should rely on prayer, rather than medicine, for their well-being.

She insisted the comments derive from out-of-context quotes from her writings as well as second- or third-hand anecdotes, many perpetuated by commentators who were young or not even born in the '80s.

"I was shocked by it," Williamson said. "I didn't go into this expecting this to be a walk in the park, but that was so outrageous. Usually when people criticize you, at least there's a little bit of truth. There is not one iota of truth. I am not that person and I never said those things. You never hear anybody say, 'I was there [in the '80s] and I heard her say that.'"

Williamson said that she is committed to increasing funding for medical interventions such as PrEP and initiatives such as Undetectable=Untransmittable which could potentially decrease new HIV transmissions and increase access to care for people living with the infection.

She also emphasized that taking a stand for anyone's rights can no longer be "just a part-time job" in America.

She explained, "The forces that undermine our democracy—the worst aspects of our character—are now politicized in America. It's bigger than just ending the ban on trans [persons] in the military or just Title VII. It goes deep, and I think you have to have a president who has not only a commitment to policy changes, but a historical, attitudinal and philosophical view of all this."

Williamson's background means that her rhetoric—quite often referencing language associated with spirituality or principles that have taken root in the self-help industry—often stands in stark contrast to that of other politicians, she realizes. But she thinks that the electorate is ready for messaging not steeped in pessimism, invective or nationalistic hyperbole.

"There are far more lovers than haters in this country," Williamson said. "The problem is that the haters have become politicized. The problem is the haters are convicted, and convictions are a powerful force. We have to love with just as much conviction. Our problem is that we have a political establishment which has in its own way contributed to the problem, because it doesn't want to 'upset' anybody. It figures that if I upset you by telling you the real truth, by telling how dark and corrupt this is, you might not want to vote for me—it will sound 'negative.'"

Politicians exploiting fear, she added, further disempower Americans within the election process through "how people have been chronically disengaged from the political system. The political establishment has [also] taken advantage of that with the assumption that 'I will only care about something if it [affects] my people.'"

Americans need to feel like their government "has their back," said Williamson, adding that sentiment applied especially for the LGBT community, among others.

"The purpose of government is to be there for people, to protect the most vulnerable," she explained. "There are cases where, with gay and transgender people, the government proactively does not have your back, where government policies come down on the side of people who limit rights and freedoms, and open the door for harm."

But "tolerance" of various communities won't be enough, Williamson said: "Tolerance suggests judgement. We need to move to the point of celebration of people."

See .

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